It is with enormous pride that I witnessed the release of the first-ever United States National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security. Publication of the plan serves as valuable recognition and acknowledgement of a critical new step in U.S. foreign policy, one that strives to hear, honor and amplify the female voices for peace in societies around the world.

Earlier this month, the Nobel committee recognized three women leaders by awarding them the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize— Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee, and Yemeni activist Tawakul Karman. It was a watershed moment and an important message signaling that women have earned the right to be heard. At the same time, we must appreciate that those three women represent thousands of women and girls worldwide working non-violently to end war.

Many of these women have been striving anonymously to prevent and resolve war, and to reweave and rebuild communities torn by conflict. Included among them are the women of Afghanistan and Iraq who have advocated, protested, pushed and rallied to preserve and advance their rights despite violence and personal threats. Also to be recognized are the women of Cote d’Ivoire, who gave their lives for the cause of peace. And we must remember the historic contributions of women in Bosnia, Colombia, Guatemala, India, Northern Ireland, Sudan and myriad other countries in every corner of the world who have all struggled to return peace and prosperity to their societies and communities.

As I reflect on these women leaders, I recall my recent travels to Afghanistan as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, where I had the opportunity to speak with many of these exceptional women. In Afghanistan, the incredibly brave female members of the High Peace Council I met were striking in their determination to give women a voice in negotiations with insurgents. In the DRC, women victims of heinous sexual violence emphasized the need to tell their stories so that others would not suffer. In Rwanda, members of the White Ribbon Alliance reflected on their continuing efforts to help that nation recover from genocide.

Today is dedicated to the incredible women peace builders I have had the honor to work with for the last decade. We celebrate your contributions and look forward to working with you in the years to come!